Rahm Emanuel, five-year veteran of the House of Representatives, has accepted President-Elect Obama’s offer to become his White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel is a representative of Illinois’ 5th District and is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. He is also a White House veteran having served under former President Bill Clinton as a policy advisor.
But Emanuel also lays claim to a strong pro-reproductive health legislative record; he has supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and voted against the politically-named "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" in 2003. Emanuel’s record earned him a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
And Emanuel, like Obama, favors a strong pro-prevention focus, particularly evident in his co-sponsoring of pro-active legislation. In 2007, along with both Senators Obama and Biden, Emanuel co-sponsored the Healthy People 2010 Act, a bill "to expand access to preventive health care services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, reduce abortions, and improve access to women’s health care."
There are many reasons for reproductive and sexual health and rights advocates to celebrate Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, a person that certainly holds the President’s ear.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America told RH Reality Check,
"When it comes to politics, policy, and
understanding how to win both, Rahm is among the best in the business.
President-elect Obama continues to surround himself with fantastic
talent. Given his fully pro-choice voting record, we couldn’t be happier with
The White House Chief of Staff is sometimes known as the "Second Most Powerful Man in Washington" because of the power he wields. For this reason, having a strong reproductive and sexual health and rights ally could be quite a coup for the advocacy community. President-Elect Obama has the potential to enact key legislation that begins to dismantle some of the harmful policies that have piled up over the last eight years. Will Emanuel support those policies and directives for which advocates are already petitioning? It seems likely. It is clear that having Emanuel as a key member of a new administration will usher in a very different perspective on reproductive and sexual health and rights than we’ve seen in the last eight years.